Thomas Sheldrick was born in 1813 in Isleham, England. Sheldrick settled in Dundas in 1834 as a carpenter and carriage builder. He helped build the Town Hall, the Cotton Mill, the Elgin House and the Baptist church.
Before working as a carpenter constructing these significant buildings, Thomas Sheldrick primarily built carriages and coffins. In his first year in Canada, Sheldrick wrote home to his sister and his primary concern was the cholera outbreak of that year. Thomas noted that he was building coffins and graves were being dug before people had died due to the sheer number of deaths. In Toronto, as many as forty people were dying each day from the cholera outbreak.
In Thomas Sheldrick’s letter, he also describes the natural beauty of Dundas, Sheldrick called Dundas a “pretty place surrounded on all sides by hills” and noted the many waterfalls and springs among the forested areas. Thomas was most impressed by the expansiveness of the country compared to England.
Thomas Sheldrick was a very religious man, and helped to build a Baptist church. Sheldrick was also very involved in the emerging community of Dundas – he was present and voted to incorporate Dundas as a town in 1847 and again in 1848, acting as the secretary at the proceedings in 1847.
Sheldrick and a business partner, John Fleming, put in a bid to build the Town Hall in 1848. Despite losing the bid to James Scott, Thomas Sheldrick helped to construct the building.
Thomas Sheldrick was a founding member of the Mechanic’s Institute in Dundas, which centred around discussing books, debates, lectures and demonstrations. They began to collect books, an orrery (model of the planets and solar system) and other instruments. As the collections of books grew, the need for a librarian arose as they allowed access to the public. Thomas was the second official Librarian of the Mechanic’s institute, serving for the year 1847.
Sheldrick was married twice. His first wife died in 1853 and Sheldrick remarried in 1856 to Margaret Frazer. Sources are conflicting due to his multiple marriages, but Sheldrick names five children in his will: Elizabeth, Ernest, Helen Maria, Vincent Thomas and Percival.
Thomas Sheldrick died August 22, 1866 and was buried in Dundas. His wife, Margaret operated the Merchant’s Exchange Hotel for two years following Thomas’ death and then moved the family to Guelph.
The 1851 Map of Dundas shows that Thomas Sheldrick owned a plot of land on King Street W, Which is now 225 King Street West. It is to this point that Sheldrick is attached in Discover Your Historical Dundas.
Dundas Nov 14, 1865
I Thomas Sheldrick being of sound mind and memory do make this my last Will and Testament as follows.
I do give and bequeath unto my wife Margaret the whole of my property of every description for her sole use and benefit during her life or so long as she continues unmarried that is to say she shall derive all the interest or benefit deriving from said property or chattels but shall not sell or dispose of any part of the same, and at her death or marriage the said property shall be equally divided between my children viz. Elizabeth, Ernest, Helen Maria, Vincent Thomas and Percival and should my wife Margaret be the mother of another living child or children by me it shall equally share with my other children said division to take place on the youngest child attaining the age of sixteen years of age and I request my friends Horatio? Palmer and Alexander Calder to act as my Executors to see all my just debts paid, sell my chattel property for my wife’ benefit if she thinks necessary and that said division will take place as aforesaid on my wife’s death or marriage as witness my hand and seal this fourteenth day of November 1865.
Witness signed Thomas Sheldrick
Signed Robert Golt
John H. Davis
This is to certify that Thomas Sheldrick of Dundas Canada West and Margaret Frazer of the same place were this day married by me by license
April 30 1856
City of Hamilton
Thanks to the students of McMaster University Department of History for their help with this project.